Grahame, James (DNB00)

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GRAHAME, JAMES (1765–1811), Scotch poet, was born in Glasgow, 22 April 1765, his father being a prominent lawyer and ardent whig. After a distinguished school and college career in Glasgow, Grahame, against his own inclination to study for the church, was apprenticed to his cousin, Laurence Hill, W.S., Edinburgh. Although disliking his work, and having somewhat uncertain health to contend with, he completed his apprenticeship, and in 1791 was admitted a member of the Society of Writers to the Signet. His father dying this year, Grahame meditated a change of profession, and at length, in 1795, became an advocate. In 1802 he married the eldest daughter of Richard Grahame, town-clerk, Annan, and for several years pursued his profession and took recreation in literature. His success as an advocate being limited, Grahame resolved on realising his early intention of being a clergyman. Accordingly in 1809 he went to London, and shortly afterwards, ignoring his original position and reputation as ‘a westland whig,’ was ordained by the Bishop of Norwich. Presently he was appointed curate of Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire, which he left in April 1810 to attend to certain family interests in Edinburgh. There was a vacancy that year in St. George's Chapel, Edinburgh, for which Grahame was an unsuccessful candidate. Mrs. Grant of Laggan, in one of her letters, tells of hearing him preaching for the post, and pleasantly describes and criticises both himself and his sermon. In August of that year Grahame was appointed sub-curate of St. Margaret's, Durham, from which he was shortly transferred to the curacy of Sedgefield in the same diocese. This he soon left, owing to declining health. He went for advice to Edinburgh, whence, after a short stay, he and his wife proceeded to his brother's residence at Whitehill, Glasgow. Here Grahame died, 14 Sept. 1811, leaving his widow and two sons and a daughter.

While at the university Grahame printed some verse for private circulation, and in 1797 he published his ‘Rural Calendar.’ To 1799 belongs ‘Wallace, a Tragedy,’ of which six copies were printed. In 1801 appeared an unsuccessful dramatic poem on Mary Queen of Scots. When married Grahame discovered that his wife thought but meanly of his poetry, and this, no doubt, was his main reason for publishing ‘The Sabbath’ anonymously in 1804. It charmed him to find Mrs. Grahame in raptures over the descriptive beauty, the vivid historical illustrations, the moving, sentimental pictures, and the deep religious earnestness of a poem that is Scottish to the core; and he then avowed the authorship. Three new editions were called for in a year, and to these Grahame added descriptive and thoughtful ‘Sabbath Walks.’ In 1806 he wrote a pamphlet advocating trial by jury in civil causes, and in the same year he published his ‘Birds of Scotland,’ exemplifying both ornithological knowledge and descriptive ingenuity and ease. In 1808 he issued his poems in two volumes, publishing the following year in quarto his ‘British Georgics,’ of which the most poetical portions are not didactic. In 1810 he published ‘Poems on the Abolition of the Slave Trade.’ As poet of ‘The Sabbath’ Grahame is much respected and admired by Scott, while he is the object of one of Byron's most gratuitous sneers in ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,’ and supplies Professor Wilson with the theme of a very warm poetical eulogy.

[Edinburgh Annual Register, 1812; Lockhart's Life of Scott, ii. 29, 176, 369, 389, 390; Mrs. Grant of Laggan's Memoirs and Correspondence, i. 136, 243; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Anderson's Scottish Nation.]

T. B.